A crazy thing happened the other day while I was looking over some page flow analytics for one of my education clients. I noticed that more than 50% of all of the traffic to their alumni section had either come from, or flowed to, admissions-related areas of the site.
“What the…” I thought for a moment. Then I wrote the trend off to poor navigation. I had, after all, been brought in to consult, and improving site navigation was on the list of objectives. But the data (see below) kept nagging me, popping up everywhere as I continued my page flow analysis.
Just for clicks and giggles I decided to check my other ed. clients’ data. Three different sites, SAME THING! “That’s it,” I concluded, pounding the keyboard. “I’m calling Hans!”
Hans Mundahl of New Hampton School is an ESM contributor, streaming video impresario, and web design/navigation wizard who knows his users’ habits better than anyone I know. Not surprisingly, Hans was well aware of the trend. In fact, he maintains a link to the alumni section in a cluster on every level 1 landing page on his site, above the secure login link.
Unlike Hans, I was shocked by the revelation. A school’s alumni content section is among the most heavily trafficked touch points for prospective students and parents, right up there with academics, athletics, and arts. This includes Facebook pages.
In short, alumni relations is admissions outreach.
“A school’s alumni content section is among the most heavily trafficked touch points for prospective students and parents, right up there with academics, athletics, and arts.”
So what does this mean for your content strategy? To be honest, I’m not totally sure yet. I’m going to spend the next month surveying the best schools I can find and then I’ll be back with specific best practices in Alumni = Admissions Pt. 2.
For now, we can be sure of three things:
- All alumni content MUST be created/strategized with prospectives in mind.
- Everyone on your school’s Facebook page has just been upgraded from community member to brand ambassador, making the concepts discussed in my last post even more critical.
- The strategy of “alumni only” is officially dead. Many schools build alumni only Facebook pages and maintain sites with alumni pages hosting narrowly targeted alumni features, etc. It’s time to start creating content that is emotionally engaging to everyone with the goal of getting various brand ambassadors (alums, parents, students) to interact with prospectives.
Don’t think this trend applies to you? Take the challenge. Check the in/out on your school’s alumni page (for the period of admissions season) right now and post your findings to comments. According to the heavy hitters, you should find 50% or more of all click paths traverse traditional admissions areas, indicating the presence of prospectives.
“Without a doubt,” says Dina Petringa, Communications Director at Marymount Los Angeles. “One of the things prospectives want to know most about Marymount is the outcome of a Marymount education. They want to see a vibrant community full of successful alums still engaged with the school.”
As I mentioned, the trend is not confined to alum site sections. All of your school’s alumni communications channels are more than likely heavily trafficked by prospectives, especially Facebook pages.
Take a look at the Facebook pages highlighted in WhippleHill President Travis Warren’s recent ESM post, The Best of What’s Around. All of the content on these superstar pages is very clearly designed to be universally appealing. The content is frequently multimedia and is almost free from traditional targeting. “At a minimum, schools that embrace social media are showing variety, activity and impressive fan totals,” Travis writes. “The best are finding creative ways to engage their audience and leverage existing content.”
Bottom line: There is compelling evidence that suggests schools will have to dramatically rethink their alumni/admissions content strategy, merging most, if not all, of their existing content channels. But look on the bright side! Now that admissions and alumni content is one in the same, there’s a lot less work to do — Right?